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Washington Insiders Caucus

Posted: January 5, 2020 | By: John Altendorf and Tanner Halleran Tagged: Blog

The drive to Washington, one of the few towns in Iowa where the name of the town is also the name of the county, is 2 hours and 6 minutes from Drake (according to our trustworthy Apple Maps). Washington’s population is a little over 7,000 people, so for a Sunday morning caucus event, we weren’t sure what to expect. Nonetheless, at 9 am, we were on our way for the 11:15 am door opening. For it being relatively early in the morning, the gloomy grey sky did little to highlight Iowa’s beauty, but in the car, the conversation was pleasant, steadfast, and insightful. By the time we arrived at 11 am, a crowd had already amassed outside the Washington Middle School, where the event was to take place. Finding parking was still surprisingly easy and by the time we walked to the school on the other side of the city block, approximately 150 people were already lined up, signing-in, and placing their blue and gold stickers on their shirt.

Campaigns are always looking to sign up volunteers, register people to vote, and hopefully have Iowans fill out a Commit to Caucus card at caucus events. One thing that was surprising for this event was that whereas most campaigns do paper sign-in forms, the Mayor Pete campaign had outfitted approximately 5 volunteers with smartphones or handheld tables to sign people in on or get them registered for attending the event. From all the Iowa events that have taken place, never before have either of us seen this level of technology used to check-in attendees. Perhaps this is a small show of the dollars Mayor Pete has been able to fundraise recently. That being said, not all Washingtonians appreciate Pete’s fundraising credentials. One older gentleman was peacefully protesting the Mayor’s event by holding up a sign conveying to those streaming into the middle school that Mayor Pete is being bought by billionaires whereas Sen. Sanders is not. While his efforts were probably pure, he didn’t seem to develop much sympathy from the attending crowd.

Although Mayor Pete has taken in big dollars since he announced his candidacy, his policies have not always been far from Sanders’ far-left ideology. One of the great aspects of the Iowa experience is the ability to see the candidates up close and personal from their first day on the campaign trail and join them as they grow as a candidate. Pete Buttigieg has clearly experienced that period of transition. During his first stops in Iowa, the South Bend mayor had many different policy proposals than the stump speech he delivered Sunday in Washington. Among those policies was reforming the electoral college and adding seats to the Supreme Court. He also was quoted in the first Democratic debate saying, “If we embrace a far-left agenda, they’re going to say we’re a bunch of crazy socialists. If we embrace a conservative agenda, they’re going to say we’re a bunch of crazy socialists. So let’s stand up for the right policy, go up there, and defend it.” This messaging was far from the moderate policies and traditional values Pete spoke of Sunday afternoon, a perfect example of how Iowa molds candidate’s into what is preferred by the party electorate.

Departing from Washington, Tanner remained uncommitted to a candidate, and John, while still in support of the President, admittedly saw the appeal of a young, fresh-faced, polished politician with a newly discovered moderate streak. The drive back to central Iowa was equally as enjoyable as the ride to Washington, even stopping in Sigourney, Iowa, to see the town that built Tanner and bond with his family at the local watering hole. Topics on the trip home included former presidents, jury duty stints, Hart of Dixie, The West Wing, and even a robust plan for a new Netflix series combining the two aforementioned shows (release coming caucus season 2023). Overall, the experience was insightful, entertaining, and just the way a couple of Drake students wanted to spend our Sunday afternoon – with a possible future president, vice-president, or maybe cabinet secretary.